The Angel of the Lord, the Son of God, appeared to Gideon and called him a mighty man of valor. But Gideon did not appear to be very powerful at all. Gideon was a young farmer. A struggling farmer. He was in hiding from the Midianites. The Midianites inhabited almost all of Saudi Arabia and on their way to oppress the children of Israel they would ally with the Amelekites and other nations for added strength that they didn’t really need. The Midianite armies would come up like locusts on the land to devour Israel’s crops and kill or take their animals. As a result, many of the Israelites were forced to make dens and strongholds for themselves in the mountains and in caves. Every crop Gideon grew was taken by the Midianites. What little wheat Gideon was able to gather he was forced to thresh in secret, in a winepress. Which is almost impossible. There’s no room or air in order to properly separate the wheat from the chaff. And on top of all that, his clan was weakest in Manasseh, and he himself was least in his father’s house.
So we can understand Gideon’s response to the Angel of the Lord’s greeting: “the Lord is with you.” Gideon said to Him, “Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us? . . . But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
There are times when the people of God’s Israel today, the Church, all of us, we feel like Gideon. Perhaps there have been moments in the darkening days of this Adventtide when you yourself have asked questions similar to his. If God is with us, if He really is Immanuel (God dwelling with us), why is the Church struggling or mistreated or ignored? If God is with me, then why are things such a mess? Why do I feel alone? Why am I sick and suffering? Why have I experienced loss? Where is the power of God that we hear about in the Bible?
Like Gideon, we, too, may sometimes feel ignored and forsaken. And yet, we also know, deep down, that the messes we experience are sometimes of our own making. That’s how it was in Gideon’s day. The reason God allowed Israel to be overrun by the Midianites is because the Israelites had done evil in His sight. This happens repeatedly, and not just in the Book of Judges. The Israelites forsake the Lord to run after other gods they think will give them more of what they want. God’s anger is roused against His rebellious people, and He allows their enemies to overtake them. Then, in their distress, they cry out to the Lord for help. And the Lord raises up a judge, a deliverer, to rescue them from the power of their enemies. The land has rest, and everything goes well for a period of time. But then, the judge dies, the people become spiritually complacent and apathetic, and they forsake the Lord again, and the whole process starts all over.
This is a warning for us. When everything is going well, we, too, can be tempted to become complacent in our faith, forgetting the Lord and forsaking Him for the things of this world. It should not surprise us, then, if the Lord allows hardship to come upon us so that we might be brought to see what we have done. But this is also for our comfort; the Lord is doing this for our good. He is seeking to work penitence in our hearts so in faith, we might call upon His perfect name again and with greater fervency. He chastens us like a son whom He loves. With the Law, He turns us away from our idols, and by the Gospel, He draws us back and restores us to Himself. Through Christ, our deliverer, we have rest once more.
Gideon is a picture of Jesus. He was the one chosen by God to deliver Israel in that day and to bring them rest again. Even though he was weakest and least, he was the Lord’s man for the job. God created us. He knows our weaknesses better than we do. So, He knows what He can do with us. This is a consistent theme even to the end of the Gideon narrative. Instead of defeating the Midianites with a massive army, the Lord insists that Gideon reduce his army down from thirty-two thousand (with which they were still vastly outnumbered), to only three hundred men. This was so that the victory would not be won by human strength (so they could boast in themselves) but solely by the wisdom and strength of the Lord.
The power of God being hidden beneath seeming powerlessness points us to a fulfillment in Jesus. Gideon is a living prophecy of the victory over sin and death and the devil, which the Lord brings to us at Christmas. It is the way of God that the last shall be first and the humble shall be exalted. Jesus embodies this. He is the mighty and eternal Son of God, yet He does not appear to be so. He was laid in a cattle trough for a crib. His birth took place almost secretly. He appeared to be nothing more than a poor peasant boy. He was born in Bethlehem, which Scripture says is little among the clans of Judah. When, as an infant, His life was threatened by Herod, He was hidden away in Egypt for a time.
Jesus, our mighty man of valor, was like any man, He appeared to be vulnerable and helpless—not only in His birth but also in His death. Nevertheless, He brought about the fulfillment of His own words, which He had spoken to Gideon, “I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man”. Gideon and his mere three hundred would defeat the countless Midianites as one man because the Lord was with them. There wasn’t even a battle. As per God’s instructions Gideon’s men were armed with trumpets, empty jars and lamps. The trumpet represents His word. The empty vessel is us. And the lamp symbolizes His presence with us. Using these tools that would make no sense to a military man (let alone a young farmer) they got the Midianites to turn on themselves.
The Lord Jesus defeats all of our enemies, quite literally, as one man. By His incarnation, He has taken our humanity into Himself, and by His death and resurrection, He has destroyed sin, death, and the devil once and for all. Again, with no battle. The greatest victory achieved through surrender to God’s will and His plan. “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous”.
Jesus is an army of one, the only one who can deliver us from our enemies. The one man, Jesus defeated our powerful enemies through weakness because He is the Lord in the flesh. The ultimate and truest symbol of God and Man eternally together. Out of lowly Bethlehem came the One to be the ruler and deliverer of Israel. The Midianites, in their confusion, would end up turning on and killing one another in their camp. In the same way, Jesus turned death and Satan against themselves on the cross, delivering us forever from their power and the sin that oppresses us. The one man Jesus assumed the humanity of all people in His conception and birth. And so this one man’s victory also counts for all people in His death and resurrection. The name Gideon means “one who breaks or cuts down.” Jesus, our Gideon, has broken and cut down all false gods and the devil himself by the wood of the manger and the wood of the cross.
The Angel of the Lord first appeared to Gideon when he was fearfully threshing out wheat for bread in a hidden winepress, and He departed from sight after Gideon offered up bread and meat on the rock. The Angel of the Lord consumed the sacrifice and disappeared. All of this points us to the Sacrament of the Altar, where the Lord fulfills His promise to be with us in the flesh—where His body and blood, offered up on the rock of Golgotha, are given to us under bread and wine. Though Jesus has departed from our sight, He is still present with us as true man in our need so that we might also share with Him in His divine glory. He is with us now more than He ever was. His grace cradles our eternal souls. And so we say with Mary in her Magnificat, “He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate.”
Finally, when the Angel of the Lord departed from Gideon, he perceived fully that he had been in the very presence of God. Gideon thought he would die for having seen the Angel of the Lord face-to-face. But Gideon is given a word of peace. So, also, we are given peace, an invitation to come into the Lord’s presence without fear, through faith in Christ Jesus. By His true humanity, we are saved from judgment and reconciled to God. The Son of God also comforts us by saying, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.” For the Lord Jesus is both the Mighty God and the Prince of Peace.
Let us, then, during this Advent season, look to Jesus as our Gideon, whose perfect and eternal might is hidden in lowliness. Let us with penitent hearts hope in Him who is born to be our eternal Deliverer and Savior. Jesus, born as one man to be our everything.
Instead of experiencing everything through our limited earthly point of view with – Why me? Why my loved one? Why is there suffering? And we add to those questions and say – I am the least, I am weak, I am hurting, I am lost and I am afraid. That’s us. That’s what we can do on our own. When we only look to ourselves. But we’re not alone. We never were.
God says – I AM! God says – I AM and HE IS! HE IS ETERNALLY WITH US! He never let’s up on us. He never left our side. He puts us first, He’s our strength, He’s our comfort, He’s our way and He’s our courage. He’s literally everything we need. God says – I AM _____ and you fill in the blank after that statement. He’s everything you ever need.
Let’s experience our lives through the point of view of His Grace – Why not me? Here I am. Who am I that I get to know love? Who am I that I get to even have loved ones? I didn’t deserve it, earn it or earn them. I did not earn my time with them. Why did we get to know love? The answer is that it’s a foretaste of the feast to come. An eternity with those we may consider lost, while we’re here. We get to make up for lost time in Heaven compared to our limited human lifetime.
And are we blind to God during our suffering? God is with us the whole time. He suffers alongside us. He is always, always, always with us. He never left. Suffering is no longer punishment for sin because Jesus took our sin. The books of the Bible can teach us the truth. Let’s look at their names. We go from Genesis to Revelation. Basically, creation, God’s creation leading to a revealing of God’s endgame – a new Heaven, a new Earth and eternity with Jesus. We are created to continually perceive and experience His plan into eternity. None of us are created to die or end. There’s no book titled ‘Death’ or ‘The End’. There’s no book in the Bible that says we die and then everything fades to black. Because that isn’t the truth. Only the truth is found in the Bible. Death is not His plan. It never was. We are created to learn and grow from every experience whether we perceive it as positive or negative. Because EVERY experience leads to HIM and ETERNITY. His eternity. Eternal PEACE, Eternal LOVE and Eternal LIFE. Bought for You, for me, bought for ALL of US by JESUS. Again, Our One Deliverer, Our One Savior, The One Way, The One Truth and The One Life, Eternal Life. Our Eternal LIFE. Our Greatest, Our Perfect Christmas Present! Our JESUS!
Amen, Come Lord JESUS!